Graham aiming to turn back the clock to bridge 22 years
Noel Graham will look to bridge a 22-year gap in the Irish Bowling Association National Championships at Stormont today. The Lisnagarvey man has defied the odds to reach the semi-final of the singles, and now only Richard Leonard of St James's Gate stands between Graham and a place in the showcase decider.
Although he has been on the winners' rostrum at Commonwealth Games and World Championship level, his Irish singles victory back in 1995 is still up there with his highlights. In fact, he managed to complete the full sweep because he went on the lift the British Isles singles title that year.
But Graham, who stepped down from the international arena in 2014, admits he'll be looking no further than his outing against Leonard.
"Every game is a battle at this stage," he said.
"Everyone is here on merit... so there is nothing easy. I'm coming up against a current Ireland international.
"That tells me all I need to know.
"But I don't want the occasion to pass me by. I've played a heck of a lot of games to get here, just like everyone else, so I want to make the most of it," Graham added.
Graham or Leonard will face either Mark Wilson or DJ Wilson, who meet in the other semi-final.
Meanwhile, Marty McHugh is also back on the hunt for a national trophy.
The big Whitehead man is joined by Jack Montgomery and JR Wilson hoping to retain the triples title. The NIBA boys come up against the Portrush combination, skipped by Simon Colvin.
IBA National Championships semi-finals
Singles: R Leonard (St James's Gate) v N Graham (Lisnagarvey); M Wilson (Cookstown) v DJ Wilson (Dunbarton).
Under-25 singles: J Byrne (Crumlin) v R Cavan (Belmont); A Tennant (Ballymoney) v R McKeown (Whitehead).
Under-18 singles: C O'Brien (CYM) v A McKeown (Mossley); A Stratton (Ballymoney) v J Moffett (Banbridge).
Pairs: C McCartan, DJ Wilson (Dunbarton) v P Power, G McGleave (Divis); E Carruth, R Leonard (St James's Gate) v A Tennant, G Kelly (Ballymoney).
Triples: J D'Arcy (Crumlin) v M Nutt (Old Bleach); M McHugh (Whitehead) v S Colvin (Portrush).
Fours: M Wilson (Cookstown) v A Duncan (Ballymena); J D'Arcy (Crumlin) v S Denley (Bangor).
Senior fours: M Morgan (Falls) v S Bewley (Bangor); C Hogg (Cookstown) v F McCarthy (CYM).